The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

cubits wide

leave a comment »

More macro comestibles, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in a couple of posts from last week (this, and that), a humble narrator is making productive use of the hermitage forced upon him by the cold weather by experimentation with macro lens photography. The subject matter for this pursuit has almost exclusively been food based, and in the case of what you see in today’s post – it’s a true fruit and a drupe, not berries which are commonly referred to as fruit like banana or citrus.

The circumstance of the shots utilizes a jury rigged lighting set up which includes the usage of a powerful flash placed behind the subject, which allows for some of the internal structure of the food stuffs to be revealed. It’s all somewhat complicated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First up on the stage are apples, specifically two of them, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you exactly which one of the 7,500 breeds of the thing they are – they’re red apples which I bought at the bodega across the street from my house is all I can tell you. The nice thing about this sort of project is that in addition to providing for an interesting technical challenge which produces somewhat intriguing results, it also results in a series of tasty and healthy snacks for a narrator to enjoy when the work is done.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apples and humans have been together a long time. Literal interpreters of certain holy texts will tell you that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil consumed by Adam and Eve was an apple, but that’s largely because of a translation era. There’s also the Nordic tradition of the Golden Apples of Idunn, which supplied Odin, Loki, and the rest of that crew with immortality. Heracles had twelve labors, and acquiring the golden apples found at the Garden of the Hesperides was one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Malus domestica is the botanical classification for all 7,500 kinds of domesticated apple, which have been bred out from a wild ancestor native to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang that is called Malus sieversii. It’s believed that the original cultivation of apples as a crop began in China’s Tian Shan mountains in prehistoric times. Apples are produced by a deciduous tree which is part of the same botanical family that produces Roses and Plums, amongst other useful things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that China is the world’s apple superpower, producing roughly half of the worldwide annual 80 million ton harvest of the fruit. Apples are nearly twice as genetically complex as human beings, and unlike humans, if you store them under the right conditions you can count on them staying fresh for months. The Granny Smith and Fuji variants can be kept viable in storage for nearly a year under tightly controlled circumstance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apples were brought to the Americas by European colonists in the 17th century, and the first orchard on the continent was in Boston. The schoolboy mythology version of American history claims that Johnny Appleseed distributed cultivars of Apples to far flung homesteads. The reality was that John Chapman was a Swedenborgian missionary, who maintained a far flung apple tree nurseries business, who would just show up on your property and try to convert you to the “New Church.” He would distribute individual sections of the bible to people he visited, operating a one chapter at a time library service for pioneers. Chapman would also try to talk the farmers he met into partnering with him on an apple nursery planted on their property.

The esoteric side of Swedenborgian thought opined that if if you could create a society that operated in the manner of an orchard, it would be producing better citizen and parishioner fruit than you could by letting them grow wild. Later adherents of the philosophy would popularize and institutionalize into education a tenet of their faith, and if you attended Kindergarten then you’ve experienced it.

Swedenborgian Kindergarden – American Child Orchard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above looks right down where the stem of the fruit connected to the branch. My “under” flash was set to maximum power and “throw” to illuminate the otherwise lightfast skin and flesh of the fruit. I’ve received a couple of comments about the prior posts that there’s a “Georgia O’Keefe” sort of sexual vibe going on with some of these shots, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Technically speaking, these are the sex organs of a life form, so… probably not far off. I’ve always been interested in the visual similarity of various animal body parts to analogous organs found in the plant world. My opinion on the subject has always been that evolution is a somewhat lazy beast, and that certain anatomical configurations were figured out very early in the game and have been widely transmitted as the various clades diverged from each other. Someday, science will describe certain shapes and structures as being distinctly terrestrial – presuming we have something else to compare earthly life to in a clinical setting.

Either that, or it’s the same mechanism of the human brain which renders a passing cloud as either a winged dragon or a unicorn and sees recognizable shapes in otherwise random patterns, which is called pareidolia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, Plums also belong to the Rosales or Rose family, just like apples. A taxonomist will argue about the number of plum species there are, but the presumption is that there are something like 20-40 individual variants. Commercially available plums are a different story, with most of the Plums we eat originate from either the European plum (Prunus domestica) or the Japanese plum (Prunus salicina).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plums aren’t fruits, unlike apples, instead they’re drupes. They’ve been domesticated by humans since Neolithic times. If you spot a stand of Prunus domestica in the woods of the Caucasian Montains of Eastern Europe, you’ve got a good candidate spot for archaeologists and paleontologists to poke at.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I’m trying to do with these macro experiments is to find a way to do an “x-ray view.” This requires a bit of “studio-fu.” The shot above is the same basic setup as the one below, with the difference between them being that in the one above, I left a lamp on that flooded the lens facing section of the plum with light. This reveals surface details and true color.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the “x-ray view” above, the lamp was turned off after about a second. When the big flash underneath the Plum went off, all that light went traveling straight up through the thing, revealing all the internal structure. Haven’t quite perfected this procedure yet, but intriguing – ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above and below are long exposures, coupled with that flash traveling up through the Plum to reveal the internal structure of the skin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is my favorite of the plum series, mainly because you see both exterior and interior of the thing simultaneously. I had to jump through a few digital hoops developing these things, incidentally, as my improvised lighting and flash set up hopelessly confused the camera.

I’ll be doing more of this kind of thing periodically, as I’m having a lot of fun, and eating a lot of fruit.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: